The Indianapolis Colts are back at Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday, September 10th, to kick off the 104th season of the NFL as they host a divisional foe in the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Date/Time: September 10, 2023, 1 pm ET
Weather Forecast: 77 degrees F, mostly sunny
Broadcast Crew: Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma, Shannon Spake
Radio: 93.5 & 107.5 The Fan and 97.1 HANK FM.
Referee Assignment: Clay Martin
At long last the 2023 NFL Regular Season is upon us! The long yet eventful (to put it lightly) offseason is over! Adorn your Colts gear, put on the face paint, and head over to downtown or tune in for the kickoff of a new Colts season!
The Colts (0-0) will host the reigning AFC South Champion Jaguars (0-0) at Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2023 Season Opener. This will be the 45th game of the Colts vs. Jaguars, with the Colts boasting a 27-17 record all time vs their Jacksonville opponents.
The No. 1 seed Jacksonville Jaguars?! 👀
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) September 4, 2023
The Jaguars enter Year 3 of Trevor Lawrence at QB with a ton of optimism, as he flourished down the stretch of 2022 in the 1st Year with Doug Pederson at Head Coach. They ended the season with an improbable 31-30 Wildcard Round comeback win vs the LA Chargers, before losing 20-27 to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. They will look to keep the growing momentum going in 2023.
In case people need a reminder:
Anthony Richardson will be the 5th youngest starting QB all time if he starts week 1. Patience is needed to see if he can hit his ceiling, but look for the flashes https://t.co/hTjuUZXDmo
— Jay Robins 🧾mark (@RobinsLucas) July 11, 2023
The Colts are entering a new era at QB and HC. Gone are Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, and Sam Ehlinger as starting Colts QBs and Frank Reich + interim HC Jeff Saturday from the tumultuous 2022 season. In are rookie QB Anthony Richardson and 1st time HC Shane Steichen making their debut for the Horseshoe. After a 4-12-1 season in 2022 that resulted in the Colts gaining the 4th overall pick, changes have been made. Time will tell if these changes lead to sustained success, but the Colts are embracing a fresh start to remake themselves with a young team.
What Will The New Colts Offense Look Like?
Under Shane Steichen and new Colts Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter with Anthony Richardson now under center, the Colts’ offense will look much different than the ones of yesteryear. The Colts have never had such a threat on the ground as Richardson at QB, nor a play caller willing to let him run as much as Steichen. Expect heavy usage of Run/Pass/Option plays (or Run Pass Run as Colts Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley calls it), roll-out plays, and even designed runs to take advantage of his rushing ability and cause hesitation for defenders to commit to stopping either runner or playing the pass. This combined with heavy Play action usage forces defenses to respect Richardson as a runner and creates more 1 on 1 opportunities for his passing targets. Whether it’s Richardson or an RB, expect the Colts to run the ball at a high rate. But when they do throw, the Colts’ rushing threat could help their receivers find more accessible coverages, especially deep.
The Colts’ rushing attack might not be as potent without Jonathan Taylor–but with the heavy emphasis on RPOs + zone read w/ Anthony Richardson, it’ll probably look much better than last year.
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) August 30, 2023
With his prior QB student Jalen Hurts, Steichen enabled him to run 304 times from 2021-2022. The most rushing attempts a Colts QB has had in a season all time? George Shaw in 1955 with 68. Steichen’s Offense also gave Hurts tons of scoring opportunities by leading the NFL in QB Red Zone Rushing attempts in each of the last 2 seasons. This resulted in 23 rushing TDs for Hurts over that span, the most in the NFL. With Anthony Richardson being an even better rushing threat and athlete coming out of college than Hurts, expect Steichen not to shy away from letting his QB get out in space.
The Colts passing attack will likely resemble a modern NBA offense in terms of shot selection: lots of deep 3s and layups. Steichen’s Eagles were one of the heaviest Deep ball passing attacks in the NFL, with an average depth of target of 8.7 (6th highest) in 2022. Despite that, Hurts also attempted the 12th highest percentage of throws short (1-10 yards deep) in the NFL. Anthony Richardson will likely be asked to have a similar throw selection with a heavy emphasis on quick throws for Yards After the Catch potential, or deep throws for a big potential play downfield.
Can The Young Colts Defense Limit Trevor Lawrence?
Unlike the Offense, the Colts Defense has retained its same core coaching staff from 2022. However, there are plenty of changes that have occurred personnel-wise, with 5 starting players gone from 2022:
- DE Yannick Ngakoue (Free Agency)
- LB Bobby Okereke (Free Agency)
- CB Stephon Gilmore (Traded)
- Isaiah Rodgers Sr. (Suspended for Gambling and Released)
- S Rodney McLeod (Free Agency)
The Colts are now relying upon one of the youngest defenses in the NFL, hoping that several players will step up in their stead:
- DE: Free Agents Samson Ebukam and Jacob Martin added to pair with 2021 Round 1 and 2 Draft picks Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo entering Year 3 (11 sacks combined between the 2 returning Colts DEs)
- LB: A now healthy Shaquille Leonard, Single Season Franchise Tackle Leader Zaire Franklin, and EJ Speed
- CB: 2nd-year UDFAs Darrell Baker Jr. & Dallis Flowers, rookies Julius Brents & Jaylon Jones, and a now healthy veteran Kenny Moore II
- S: 4th-year Safety Julian Blackmon and 2nd years Nick Cross and Rodney Thomas II
While the returning players should benefit from being in Year 2 of the Gus Bradley system, it is clear the Colts are relying on a lot of young players in more prominent roles in 2022. This young defense will get a tough test in Week 1 against the Jaguars Offense. The 2022 Jaguars boasted the 10th-ranked offense and could be even better in 2023. With Calvin Ridley back from suspension, Tank Bigsby added to the RB room with Ettiene still healthy, and Trevor Lawrence entering year 2 with Doug Pederson, there’s plenty of room for optimism. Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram were a solid pass-catching core in 2022, but the additions could help Lawrence take the next step in his career.
What Streak Will End?
There are 3 historical streaks to note entering Week 1:
- Colts haven’t won a season opener in 9 straight seasons, 2nd longest in NFL History.
- The Jaguars have lost 5 straight games in Indianapolis.
- No Rookie Colts QB has won in Week 1 since George Shaw in 1955.
At least one of these streaks will come to an end on September 10th. Time will tell which.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 7, 2023
The Colts’ injury report is very small with only Shaq Leonard and Zack Moss. Leonard is dealing with a concussion but has cleared the protocol and has been a full participant. Moss is still recovering from a training camp arm injury so his Week 1 availability is in question. In the meantime, the Colts’ other active RBs, Deon Jackson and rookie Evan Hull will figure to have expanded roles. Not visible on the injury report are the players Out on IR and PUP lists:
- RB Jonathan Taylor: PUP, ankle (out at least 4 weeks)
- TE Jelani Woods: IR, hamstring designated to return (out at least 4 weeks)
- S Daniel Scott: IR season-ending
- OT Jake Witt: IR season-ending
- WR Ashton Dulin: IR season-ending
- DE Genard Avery: IR season-ending
The Colts are without top RB Jonathan Taylor due to a lingering ankle injury for the first 4 weeks of the season. Potential top TE Jelani Woods missed nearly all of camp and preseason with a hamstring injury and will now miss the first 4 games as well. The Colts also suffered 4 season-ending injuries in the offseason to preseason. Day 3 Rookies Daniel Scott and Jake Witt will miss their entire first seasons and will have to make their debuts in 2024. Special Teams ace Ashton Dulin will also miss the entire year, giving others a chance to take the gunner spot in punt coverage. New Free Agent pass rusher Genard Avery was showing some promise before his season-ending injury, but the Colts signed Jacob Martin in an effort to replace his spot in the DE rotation in 2023.
No changes to the #Jaguars Injury Report from Wednesday. Looking more and more like Antonio Johnson (hamstring) will miss the opener.
— Mia O’Brien (@MiaOBrienTV) September 7, 2023
The Jaguars also only have a 2 player-long injury report. Safety Antonio Johnson is likely going to miss Week 1. The Jaguars still have starting safeties Andre Cisco and Rayshawn Jenkins, but the rookie will likely make his debut in the rotation in week 2. Backup DL Tyler Lacy also could be a game-time decision. The rest of the Jaguars’ absences:
- WR Jaylon Moore: IR season-ending
- EDGE Dawuane Smoot: IR, Achilles torn December 2022 (out at least 4 games)
- DT DaVon Hamilton: IR, back (out at least 4 games)
- OL Cooper Hodges: IR, patella (out at least 4 games)
- LT Cam Robinson: Suspended (out 4 games)
The Jaguars’ rotation up front has taken a bit of a hit due to injuries. Smoot could be out for most of 2022 with his December Achilles tear, hurting the EDGE depth. DaVon Hamilton is out at least 4 games with a back injury, and as the starting DT for the front, his impact could be missed. The biggest absence is Cam Robinson. The veteran left tackle missing 4 games due to suspension means the Jaguars are down their most proven pass protector for Trevor Lawrence. In his stead, the Jags will start Walker Little at LT and 1st Round Rookie Anton Harrison at RT. Little has 8 starts in 2 years so far in his career, so he has some experience to handle the blindside in the meantime.
The Colts have a tough test to start their new era. The Jaguars are a formidable Offense with the best QB in the AFC South, and their Defense took big strides in 2022 too (12th in Points Allowed). A young and predominantly unproven Colts secondary going against the Jaguars’ weapons seems like a potential big mismatch. However, the Colts could get some pressure on Lawrence with the rotation of Paye, Dayo, Ebukam, Martin, and Tyquan Lewis at DE and the Colts’ 2 stud DTs in DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart. Little has shown promise but hasn’t been as consistent of a pass protector as Robinson, and Harrison had a 45.3 pass pro grade in the preseason. If the Colts pass rush wins consistently against the Jaguars and their young Tackle duo, that will be an immense help to the secondary.
Press Taylor says Kwity Paye is a great edge rusher and Dayo Odeyingbo has a lot of potential and is a different type of pass-rusher than Paye. They’ll be a good test for Anton Harrison
— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) September 7, 2023
The Jaguars allowed 469 Rush Yards on 92 rushing attempts (5.1 ypc) and 2 TDs to QBs in 2022. While they did do a good job against Jalen Hurts last year (38 yards and a Rush TD on 16 carries), they had 4 other games where dual-threat mobile QBs had good rushing performances. In 4 games against Daniel Jones, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Chris Streveler, the Jags allowed 289 rushing yards and a TD on 41 carries (7.05 ypc). The Jags have a really strong LB core of Foyesade Olukun, Devin Lloyd, and Chad Muma, but missing Hamilton could make it harder for them to control the trenches in the run game. Richardson could have a solid game on the ground in his debut.
However, the key to the game will be Richardson’s development and consistency as a passer. He needs to be on the same page as his targets, be able to place the ball well, and with touch. Knowing when to unleash his cannon or when to put more touch on his throw to help his targets will help too. The Jaguars have a solid CB1 in Tyson Campbell and have an Edge rush in Josh Allen & Travon Walker with the upside to disrupt Richardson’s pocket. While Richardson is great at avoiding sacks and evading pressure, there are questions about his passing vs. pressure.
With all the questions about the young roster and new system, I have a hard time projecting the Colts win Week 1 without showing homerism. The game should be decently well scoring, but if the Jaguars get off to a good early lead it could force the Colts to move away from their run-heavy attack and rely on Anthony Richardson’s talented but inconsistent arm more.
Prediction: Colts 21 – Jaguars 27
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